Saturday, December 29, 2007
Once again, a new year waits patiently for us to arrive. Or, at least that's how I've felt lately. I keep watching it out of the corner of my eye, ever aware of its presence. It's like the wise father with a knowing smile holding the door open, waiting for the child to come in from playing.
I didn't feel this last year, this pulling, this anxiousness to step over that thick black line we've slashed in time, allowing for fresh perspectives, new resolutions...fresh starts. I also feel a pull toward not just writing, but finishing what I've started. It's time to focus.
I've decided to give myself a deadline, which has always been a four letter word for me, but I'm feeling ready for a new approach. I'm giving myself three months to finish my novel. I will have to write about two pages a day to meet this goal and being a slow writer, this is definitely a challenge.
Unfortunately, this need to focus all my time and energy in one place means that I will be taking a hiatus from writing here. I'll still visit those of you that have become my connection, my life lines in the solitude, my friends and co-conspirators in this crazy writing business.
New beginnings, new loves, new experiences and successes to you all!
Happy New Year & I'll see you soon!
Monday, December 10, 2007
I know I've been quiet here lately. Quiet and getting quieter. Unfortunately, I think it's my response to outside activity increasing. The holidays. The family. The upcoming travel plans. It's all overwhelming. The noise levels are too high, the lights are too bright, the expectations of fun and happiness are too much. I feel like a startled rabbit ready to bolt to a dark corner at any moment. Can you say introvert, anyone?
So, going inward because outward is feeling very toxic, I started wondering what exactly do the holidays mean to me?
I know some of my friends use this time to celebrate the birth of Christ, some use it to celebrate Hanukkah, some just to be with family or try to find some meaning within their family's traditions. I get it, I feel the excitement for them, but I also feel a bit like I'm watching all this from a window and it isn't touching me.
Growing up, my family had traditions--yes, but my family is now defunct; each in their own space rebuilding their lives with different people. So, it is up to me to salvage what traditions I deem important and meaningful and integrate them into the family I have made.
What do I deem important? I don't know. What the freak does this holiday season even mean to me? I don't know anymore. I mean, let's break down Christmas: The date of December 25th stems from the feast of the Son of Isis, St. Nicholas is a borrowed idea from the patron saint of Russia and the Christmas tree was considered a pagan symbol until the 16th century Catholic church was kind enough to wave in it. It's a smorgasbord of cultural customs and beliefs that have nothing to do with mine.
In order to not feel like a fraud for covering our entire house, fence, shed and dog in blinking colored lights, I had to find meaning. Meaning on a deadline. Not too difficult, right?
Luckily, today the temperatures climbed to the mid-70's here and I found a starting point in my quest. Today was a reprieve, a much needed unthawing from the shocking thirty degree weather last week. Being able to sit outside and feel the sun warming my skin was truly a gift, a break, a holiday from the emotional struggle cold weather brings for me.
This word kept sticking in my mind.
It's a vacation, a break from work, from the struggle of day to day things. It's a sanctioned rest. This is something I can relate to, something I can get excited about. A holiday.
So, this is what I'm building on. This notion of a holiday.
It is beginning to feel a lot like peace.
So, that is what I wish for you all, no matter what you are celebrating this month...that you find rest, stillness and peace.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I kissed you today and smelled strawberries in your hair. I watched you pause to point at the sliver of cotton in the sky and declare it a ‘moom’. I heard your babbles and private language mingle with whatever birds warble as the sun sets.
And as the sun sank, I saw the blue deepen into the same hue as your eyes. The sky was your precious face fading from this familiar blue into the pale peach light glowing from your cheeks. These colors, these sounds that make you inseparable from nature are no coincidence. They are promises, gifts, and little whispers from mother earth that you are also her child and she will cradle you and comfort you when I cannot.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
1) Pay attention to the reoccurring themes in your life. These are quiet lessons being whispered to us every day in the form of an overheard conversation, a book flipped open to the right page, a photo on a passing bus. Tiny messages that accumulate like snow flakes until they are big enough to get our attention.
2) Accept change. It is part of the natural cycle, the ebb and flow of life. Sorrow will follow joy, but joy will also follow sorrow. The only thing we can control is our reaction to change.
3) Don’t lose your inner child. Allow yourself to be silly, ride roller coasters, make snow angels, chase fireflies and invisible dragons, build sandcastles, play dress-up, spin until you fall to the ground and watch the clouds whirl above you. Of course, it helps if you have an actual child doing these things with you. Do everything you can to not take life or yourself quite so seriously.
4)Widen your view of the world. It is much more expansive, far- reaching and deeper than the space we occupy. There are so many cultures, philosophies and places to explore, experience and love and--so little time.
5)Remember how to breathe. As children we breathe deeply into our bellies. As adults we breath shallow into our chest. Be conscious of your breath, use it to fill your belly, calm your emotions, quiet your mind.
6) Live well. This is not as easy as it sounds. Letting yourself rest when needed, saying no when you are overwhelmed, exercising, fueling your body's furnace with healthy foods, creating, meditating, worshiping, laughing, learning, connecting. There is so much to taking care of your mind, body and spirit but it's worth the investment. Give yourself a chance to reach your full potential in life.
7) If you’re going to bother doing something don’t do it half way. Delve into it, immerse yourself in the whole experience. Don't just taste the wine-- learn how to swirl, close your eyes and separate the fruit from the oak from the earth. Life will be richer and full of color.
8) Friendships are vital. It's the space in between people where things happen. Pay attention to this space, this is love.
9) Hold on to hope. Hope is our greatest weapon against cause and effect, against knowing what the future can and will bring, and against ourselves when we feel like giving up and giving in.
10) Live free. Not free of responsibility or relationships, but free of fear, guilt, judgment and boundaries. Let yourself off the hook and off the leash.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Words fail us when we need them the most, but they are also our salvation. We pass ideas, stories, and memories from one soul to another. We connect. We communicate. We fight. We solve. All is possible with words. We say I love you and even though we don't really understand the concept of love ourselves, we use the word "love" and it is understood.
We love our children most fiercely. Those innocent, new beings we guard and protect. Those that we cherish, feeling their pain as our own. We love them with an infinite, uncondional fire.
I bought a journal to fill with words for my daughter. I wanted to give her something special for her eighteenth birthday/graduation/moving on to live separate from me in college gift. It is the highest gift I could think of--words.
I have always wanted to fill a journal for her with bits of advice, poems, glimpses of what she means to me, but I have never been able to do it, until now--eight weeks before I will place it in her hands. I sat down this weekend and filled twenty pages of things I want her to remember, to read, to take--or not take--but at least...to have.
In my twenties and thirties, life was spent mostly trying to hold my head above water, above the chaos that I can look back on now and see what could have been avoided, where I could have swam to shore. I don't often look back, only when I wonder things like "why haven't I started this journal sooner?" I now finally find myself shrugging off the struggle, catching glimpses of peace and truths that have calmed the ocean around me and within me.
I finally found the words.
To my dearest daughter:
This journal is my gift to you in hopes that it will be there when I cannot, in hopes it will bring you greater understanding of what it means to be a mother, to be your mother, to be a woman, to discover yourself and to discover most of all that you are never lost. You are right where you are supposed to be. I'm not sure what this will become. Advice when you are ready to hear it, inspiration when you find your wings, laughter and tears, unconditional love when you wonder if you are worthy of it. It will not be so you avoid mistakes, but so you know that nothing is a mistake. Everything is just a teacher and love is the greatest teacher of all.
This is what I'll be working on for a little while. There are plenty of pages to fill, so any words you are moved to share are welcomed!
Friday, November 16, 2007
So, the frost has come, the holidays are bearing down on those who choose to be beared down upon. Last year, I barely looked up from my duty as twin toddler mom to recognize the holidays. This year, I'm in the mood to celebrate my family and friends by paying them some attention. Most of them live out of state so, I thought I'd send each one something special, something thoughtfully created instead of store-bought.
On the first leg of my quest I found this incredibly talented photographer who makes jewelry from her photos. She puts little supportive poetry or messages in each box, too. Very special work. Perfect for my girlie friends.
I've also gone a bit crazy with making personalized photo albums over at Snapfish for family members. I am trying to refrain from forcing pictures of my children upon friends.
So, if my posting seems a bit scarce during these next few weeks, you'll know what I'm busy doing.
Feel free to share any creative gift ideas or links here!
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Wednesday evening. My day began with an autumn bouquet delivered to my door and it is ending with me wrapped in my favorite blanket sipping a Starbucks chai tea latte. In between, I met two wonderful writers and heard the voice of Ray Bradbury himself. You could say this was a good day.
I had recently rediscovered Ray's magic and so was very excited to be invited by John McNally (a fantastic, humorous storyteller in his own right) to come to Wake Forest to hear Sam Weller talk about his book THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES: the Life of Ray Bradbury. It is an authorized biography which I highly recommend if you want to know the real man behind the tales. As a bonus, they had arranged a live teleconference with Mr. Bradbury himself. As these technology things sometimes go, the teleconferencing equipment wasn't working, so we only got to hear something to the effect of "I can't hear you, call back on another phone."
I wish I could remember Ray Bradbury's exact words. I wish I could remember the particular tone of his voice, but I can't. I can only remember the feeling of having this surreal moment--a moment of reality animating a man that I have never thought of as a regular man...a man who puts on shoes, sleeps or eats breakfast just like the rest of us. Any image of him I have ever had involved typewriters and furrowed brows and mad pounding of keys. But, now I have heard his voice, he is human. Which makes his stories all the more extraordinary.
Sam told stories and answered questions. I am too much of an introvert to ask questions, but I had a good time listening to his experiences and his answers to other's questions about his book and his time with Ray.
One thing that I loved about this book was Sam said he wanted to not just recount details of Ray Bradbury's life, but to give some insight into where such a larger-than-life imagination comes from. Is it nature or nurture? After reading his story, I'd have to stick with nature nurtured by certain environmental influences. Like his wonderfully creative aunt or the magician who touched him with his wand and the words "live forever."
I have no doubt that he will.
Monday, November 05, 2007
When do you write?
The need that you can’t answer
weighs on your shoulders, your mind-
Suffocating each thought
under the only
thought that you can muster-
The thought of darkness,
The utter gray of your days
Is this not dark enough?
Or do you write between the rage
the pushing and the pulling that
you do not intend to win?
Do you write while death
whispers in your ear?
Do you write
while the worst you can create-
Instead of bleeding ink on dry paper-
Crackles to life
Surrounds you in a fog
Consumes you from the inside out?
In the hours when you decide to
Put on lipstick?
In the hours when all you can do is sit
Alone on the edge
Of your bed?
Do you write?
Friday, November 02, 2007
The middle mouse here is a chimera. It represents the first time a normal, healthy animal has been created from two distantly related species. Two two species being a regular old house mouse and a wood mouse.
No big deal, right? Who really cares what craziness scientists come up with in the lab?
What if this little bit of information is added:
"Their genes (speaking of the two mice) differ by as much as 18 percent, about 12 times the difference between human and chimpanzee."
Say the human is the "house mouse" and the chimpanzee is the "wood mouse"...only closer genetically.
Now do you care what craziness scientists are doing in the lab?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Here's something frivolous and fun in honor of Halloween:
Try your past life analysis here.
Your past life diagnosis:
I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern France around the year 1800. Your profession was that of a seaman, dealer, businessman or broker.
Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Bohemian personality, mysterious, highly gifted, capable to understand ancient books. With a magician's abilities, you could have been a servant of dark forces.
The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
Your task is to learn, to love and to trust the universe. You are bound to think, study, reflect, and to develop inner wisdom.
Do you remember now?
To learn to trust the universe?
Nope, doesn't ring a bell.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The problem is, I write about what interests me and I can't separate life into such neat categories.
I love exploring both science and spirituality...
they are inseperable to me.
My books will always have an element of both because I love that they are two different languages speaking the same truths:
"Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves." -Nagarjuna, second-century Buddhist philosopher
"An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things."
-H.P. Stapp, twentieth-century physicist
Monday, October 22, 2007
This is a garden path in the middle of a non-distinct, medium sized town. Once you step under the archway, you'll notice a subtle light shift from silver to gold. You'll hear rustling in the leaves that couldn't be heard from the gravel path just steps before. You'll feel giddy, like a child again and skip--not walk--further into the woods via the almost-hidden stone stairs to your right. There will be laughter in the wind, and you will stop and strain to find the direction. Fairy dust will begin to fall like stage glitter from the trees and your heart will swell with a sudden love for the life pulsing and swooning around you.
It was just a thought. No longer than the deep breath of fresh morning air I inhaled before I took this picture this weekend.
Imagination, something necessary in the creative world-- is it a blessing or a curse? Or both?
I'm trying this "fear of flying" course online and one of the things they say is "keep your imagination in check." This is a big problem for me (and I'm assuming a lot of others) because once the plane hits turbulence, I can't stop myself from finishing the flight off in my mind with a nose dive and a ball of flames.
I say "can't" but I know I can. I just haven't learned how to yet.
So--any suggestions, all you creative types, on putting the reigns on your imagination?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
It's funny that sorrow comes from so many different avenues--anxiety, grief, depression, guilt, fear, loss, loneliness, anger.
But, joy seems to be complete in itself.
Reasons for its being are unnecessary.
It needs no excuse to wiggle and shimmer,
dance and jiggle,
laugh silently while
beaming at you from the center of the room,
sometimes in the form of
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It's been a long time since I've fallen in love with a book. Well, okay, not THAT long. I finally bought the Four Agreements last night (thanks, Christian for putting it on my must-read list a year ago. Do I know how to procrastinate or what?) And the first twenty pages were so jarring for me that I had to put it down and sit in stunned silence-- in amazement, really. It was that simple kind of amazement like experiencing deja vu, or meeting a stranger that feels like your best friend.
Even before getting into the agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz tells a story--a fable, a truth...whatever you want to call it. Within this story were nestled tiny gems, hidden treasures of raw truths. Actually, for me they were nods to things that I have come to believe through different paths, that's the only reason I use the word "truth." It is such an objective word, changing like the seasons, different for every one and every situation. These things that I have accepted as truths, I also accept they may not be truths to others and in a few years they may not even be truths to me. For now, though...they are:
From science I came to believe that everything is light. That light and love and god are all labels for the same thing. I couldn't tell you how I came to believe this. I've tried to backtrack, jump back across the synaptic bridges, dig through dusty neurons, but I only get more lost. Memory is funny this way. The years of details don't stick in my mind, only the conclusions. From Ruiz's introduction:
"And he came to the conclusion that human perception is merely light perceiving light."
From studying photography I have come to believe that our reality is only a reflection of the true nature of things. There was a point in my life when I became obsessed with this idea of reflections and I would watch the world all day in mirrors or surfaces of water or car windows, photographing life only in these reflections because I felt like it was a glimpse into some cosmic joke. How would we know if what we considered to be "reality" only existed as a reflection on the universe's windshield? We wouldn't. His statement on this:
"He also saw that matter is a mirror--everything is a mirror that reflects light and creates images of that light."
Also, I've tried on different belief systems because I do think its important to believe in something. Something bigger and greater and more infinite than this flash of existence on a cold blue rock. The one thing that I could never shake was the feeling that we don't have a choice, that we are limited in our understanding and beliefs by the structure of our physical mind, by the symbols it needs to communicate. Simply, we believe what we are told is the truth, and the more that "truth" is repeated, the stronger our faith in it as "truth." His statement on this:
"Language is the code for understanding and communication between humans. Every letter, every word in each language is an agreement." AND
"The only way to store information is by agreement."
I haven't even got into the four agreements yet and already I have to agree...this is one amazing little book.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Some day I will find a way to prove I’m not crazy. It’s here again. The anniversary of…that night. I don’t want to think about it, dream about it or relive it but IT lives through me and so I cannot stop it.
It was All Hollow’s Eve six years ago. When I shut my eyes I can still smell the salty air, see the creamy moon—beautiful, swollen and glowing like a pregnant woman—and feel the fluttering in my chest as I take the dare and climb the lighthouse stairs alone.
The first thing I noticed that night as I stepped through the doorway was the chill--a dry-ice kind of cold that made me shiver so hard, I swear I could hear my bones clinking. Despite this, I moved slowly to the foot of the stairs, looked up into their spiraling underbelly, and swept my flash light over the few steps I could see. I was shocked to see my own breath on such a balmy night. I moved forward anyway. My first mistake.
Climbing higher and higher, one step at a time, up the spine of this man made creature, I steadied myself with one hand on the rough brick wall. The flash light shook in my other hand. My heart was beating so fiercely, I could hear it in my ears, even above the crashing waves outside. I began to question why I had been so sure there was nothing to fear. Why I had been so eager to prove I was the brave one. My legs began to ache with fatigue and stress. As I took the next curve, light fell on my shoulders. I collapsed against the wall with a start. When I could breathe again, I let myself lean forward and look up. Of course, I had just gotten high enough to see the moonlight coming in the top window, right? Of course. I shook my head and continued.
Finally reaching the top, I froze.
Amidst the decaying floorboards sat a lone carved pumpkin. Its grin flickered eerily, as someone had placed a candle in its gutted belly. It was a feeble glow in the moonlight. That is…at first.
I began to relax as I realized that only my friends could have done this. They had set me up for some Halloween practical joke.
I planned on waving to them from the window but as I approached the pumpkin, the fire within jumped. Crackled. Whooooshed. The slanted eyes and toothy grin were set ablaze.
The hairs on my arms stood up. I began backing up slowly toward the stairs, keeping my eye on the burning jack o lantern. That was my second mistake.
As I stared into its eyes, pictures poured into my head, images of death—burned, twisted metal hugging a tree; a woman with a blue, bloated face; open wounds still smoking from gunshots; thousands of them flooded in until--in some distant place--I heard my own screams matching those of the people dying in my head.
They say they found me like this. Sitting on the floor, screaming. They say there was no jack o lantern and no fire. Only the people who have looked into my eyes since then on All Hallow’s Eve know the truth. Most of them were nurses on the psych ward. I say were, because no one will tell me what happened to them. I feel the fire rising in me again. The restraints are tight this year. I’ve ask them to bring me water.
She enters my room with a clear, plastic pitcher and a distracted smile. I return the smile, only it’s not me. I am being silenced within.
Some people never learn.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I recently found my writing muse laying on the side of Creative Road, apparently suffering from exhaustion and (possibly a bit of dementia), her delicate wings soaked in baby drool; glassy eyed and trying to curl into a tight little ball. So, I've sent her packing to one of those trendy muse rehab numbers and am working on the acrylic painting I mentioned.
Here's a piece of it. It's not finished, and I'm not going to share the whole thing because I'm just not that cruel. I realize retinas are important to most people. But, I am enjoying this new release, and besides being relaxing, it has an added bonus of satisfying this wierd craving I've had for color in my life lately.
My mother is a painter. My brother is a graphic artist. My daughter is an exceptionally talented artist without even really having an interest in it. In fact, her painting just won 2nd place at the state fair.
Me--I'm definitely a writer.
But having fun at the moment pretending to be an artist.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Think about it--what opinion do you have of yourself right now? At this moment? Do you feel like an optimist? A failure? A bad parent? A bad writer? Out of shape? Depressed? My point is, we all label ourselves. We have a running commentary in our head of who were are at the moment. The problem is--if it's negative, that also reflects who you are to the world. It shapes other's opinions about you. After all, who knows you better than you, right? If you don't like yourself, than what's a stranger to think? And once others believe it, that will solidify the belief for you. Vicious cycle. Anyway...
I like these questions because they make me think about the positive:
1. What was your biggest challenge this past week? Resisting the urge to make chocolate chip pumpkin cookies, because I know I would eat the whole batch and null and void the hard work I've been doing at the gym.
2. What was your biggest accomplishment this past week? I decided to try painting with acrylics and even though my first attempt looks like someone threw up the primary colors on my canvas, it was a much needed new adventure in creativity.
3. What was the most exciting thing that happened in your life this past week? Can't think of one giant thing, so here's a few small but happy things: talked to my best friend from high school, took some gorgeous shots of the boys in the evening light, got to eat at my favorite downtown restaurant without children in tow, found my Kahlil Gibran books, which I haven't seen since we moved three years ago. It was a good week.
4. What one thing made you the happiest this past week? On Sunday, we took the boys to a place called Reynolda Gardens. It is just that--a garden, and I have been there many times before to shoot bridal portraits. But, for the first time in a long time, with a slight chill in the air, beauty took my breath away. The gardens are full of rows and rows of rose bushes, fountains, winding paths, archways, grape covered vines, and more types and colors of flowers than I would even care to guess at. But, the best part was a heavy dew covered it all, so the early morning sunlight set the whole scene ablaze. Truly brilliant.
Anyone else up for sharing?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Fear and self sacrifice.
The battlefield is full of sandals, saffron robes, hope, rage and riot shields. Burma is teetering on the edge of change. Hopefully. The largest anti-junta movement since 3,000 protesters were gunned down in 1988. I can't stop thinking about this situation. I'm obsessing, so I suppose I might as well write about it.
The thing I can't stop thinking about--since I know little to nothing about Burma (the U.S. refuses to acknowledge the present terrorist government's name change so I'll follow suit) is--what are these people thinking? All of them...the monks, the controlling government, the men standing there ready to kill peaceful protesters? I mean, these are human beings and they could be any one of us, any one of our neighbors, or our children. So, what's the controlling thought process here? The only motivation I can come up with on the side of the SHADOW is: FEAR. And the only motivation I can come up with on the side of LIGHT is: SELF-SACRIFICE.
Now, we all know how easily fear controls people. It not only controls the masses, but it controls the people who are controlling the masses. It is the puppet-master. The guy standing there with a gun pointed at a chanting monk does not want to pull the trigger, but he will. Not out of loyalty, but out of fear for his own safety or maybe even that of his family's. No big mystery there.
But, self sacrifice. This has always been something confusing to me. So, this is the thing I'm trying to untangle in my head.
(If you haven't had your coffee yet, this would be a good time to pause and read later or grab a cup.)
As I hold the belief that we are all equal, it is hard for me to consider an act of self-sacrifice as noble or just. I believe you should not consider yourself greater than another person, but you should also not consider yourself less. Love is acceptance, not sacrifice; sharing, not giving away; helping to fulfill another’s needs as your own, not instead of your own.
That said, yes--I would jump in front of a moving truck if it meant saving my child. But, only because I know my emotional limits, and I would rather die than live without my child. So, this is actually self-serving.
I suppose there is a bigger issue here, a larger purpose. It is not one life sacrificed for another. It is a life sacrificed for a greater purpose. For all life in that region to have freedom.
Freedom to choose how they spend their time and energy in this lifetime.
I am coming to wrap my mind around the courage it takes for a woman like Aung San Suu Kyi to sacrifice everything--her personal freedom, ever seeing her children again, or getting to see her husband before he dies--for a cause larger than herself.
Of course, we can always hold out hope that no more lives are lost, no more sacrifices are needed.
And then there is reality.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Of all the images in my National Geographic this month, all the beauty and magic showcased from Southeast Asia, Belize, Egypt and Alaska--this is the image that moved me.
It is a monk in Thailand walking with a rescued tiger.
To have loved, nurtured and cherished life so completely that you can walk side by side in peace with even the danger--even the teeth and claws--
and still be unafraid of things others would fear--would run screaming from--but you are not afraid
because you have faith...
in the love you've given.
This is paradise on earth.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
This is the last bloom of my back porch plant enjoying its time in the spotlight. I was staring at it early this morning in the sunlight, its scarlet petals juxtaposed against the withered brown of its predecessors, and--as staring at something too long always does--it led to questions I have no answers for.
I decided that these little red blooms are not the plant but the product. I would even go as far as calling them its poetry or sculpture or a burst of glittering fireworks to celebrate some private event. They are art.
They are also fleeting.
If one bloom falls off, the plant is still the same plant. When all the blooms are done for the season, the plant is still itself. So--here comes the question--what exactly needs to be left to still be the same plant? What is the essence of the plant? The visible parts? The leaves and stems? The moist fingers that stretch themselves through the soil looking for nourishment? Or is the soul of the plant the seed? Is that the only part that cannot change, wither or die and still be the same plant?
Are seeds the only bit of physical reality and the rest of our world is simply art?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Since I began this blog, I have been focused mostly on the craft and business of writing. The rules, the players, the do and don'ts. In honor of all the changes occuring in my life and Fall creeping in, I'm going to shift my focus to writing for the sake of writing.
Writing for the sake of beauty. Writing for the sake of profound joy. Writing for the sake of being in love with the written word. Writing for the sake of practice and toning.
A few things have been brought to my attention lately by subtle tap tap tappings on my subconscious. Under close scrutiny, they all boil down to the fact that I have stopped looking, stopped being aware of my surroundings, and stopped trying to find and create beauty. The obvious thing is I've stopped taking pictures. But, there is even a root to that issue that runs deeper.
I could blame these self-imposed blinders on the fact that I am so focused on other things that I don't have time to take time out. Or, I could blame it on the fact that shooting weddings completely burned me out on photography.
The truth is, I don't like my surroundings and so I've walled myself off and rarely pay attention to anything outside my own mind chatter. The truth is, I can find beauty in the glittering man-made skyline of a city and I can find inspiration in the flat, wide open, cobalt skies above ocean and sand, but I feel completely trapped and claustrophobic surrounded by a country landscape. Not that a country landscape isn't beautiful in itself, it's just that we all have parts of physical existence that we resonate with and this isn't mine.
Maybe it is the unexpected chilled air this morning that woke up my mind, maybe it is the live-in-the-moment mentality I've been trying to operate my life by. Whatever it is, it comes baring a message I can't ignore any longer: find beauty anyway. It's there. Even in things we hate, there is something to love. So, this is my new quest. Be mindful. Find something beautiful in my surroundings every day.
I may write about it, I may photograph it...some days it may be all I can do to just notice it. Eventually, I'm hoping that this will become second nature again, this paying attention...
...being the observer of sapphires and rubies in raindrops, being a grateful witness to the sacred dance of the long grasses and discovering new angles on the old gravel roads.
This feels like a new fork in one of those old roads on my writing journey.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Watch Ashes and Snow video here. This is probably the most spiritual and haunting expression of artistic vision I have ever had the privilege of stumbling across. Truly.
I promise you, it will take your breath away.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Life has changed. I am drained but I am tumbling back down the mountain to rejoin the living. I am feeling the ebb more than the flow and empty of creation, but I am still a writer and the universe will not let me forget it.
On a flight this week, my husband sat next to a lady from Canada.
"You'll never believe what she does for a living!" he says to me. "She's a molecular biologist! She has created chimeras!"
For those of you who know what I write about, you can imagine what a thrill this was for me. I have been trying to get a molecular biologist to consult on the part I'm currently working on and haven't been able to get a response. And when he told her about my current book, she replied,
"Now that's serendipity."
Yes, it is.
Time to dig back into the novel.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
It is time for a sabbatical. I have chosen the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, since it has been so inspiring to other writers. I will set up camp in the thin, icy air surrounded by open blue skies. I will be alone. I will wait to be inspired. I will work on finishing my novel, and so I will bring a sacrificial alter to kill my darlings.
Speaking of darlings..ahem...
I, of course, cannot afford to take this trip anywhere but in my mind. I will be away for awhile, though. Mostly because my "free time" has suddenly been cut in half with the dissolution of nap #2. That's right, the day has come...the boys have decided and it is so. I have under two hours a day to get in all the
"can only do when children are sleeping" things like showering and writing.
Also, there are major life changes on the horizon. The opportunity to move back to Florida has come up and it is both a dream and a nightmare, as life changes often are...that yin/yang ebb and flow ever present, inescapable.
So, please bear with me as I wiggle and squirm in my new boundaries, and try to find space for writing within ever-closing walls. Focus is what I am hoping to find.
Unless we take the challenge of packing up and relocating camp.
Then, I will find myself happily and frantically moving mountains.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I believe in serendipity. I believe in doors opening at the right time, people coming into your life when there is something to be gained or lost, lessons given freely if we would only sit still and open our eyes and our minds. This is the faith by which I write.
If I am stuck, If I am drowning, if I am in need of a direction, I sit still, I wait, I watch...I hover. Always, without fail, I am eventually shown something, taught something, given something that is exactly what I need. Maybe this is true in every aspect of life. I have experienced this only with my writing, but who knows...
Anyway, the scene I was stalled at was one where my main character has to let go of a girl that has become like a daughter to her. My problem here was goodbye has never been hard for me. I don't look back, I don't mourn the past...in fact I thrive on change. Or so, I thought. One thing about children is they will show you exactly how wrong you are about yourself.
This is the lesson I learned today, this is the lesson that has given me the exact emotional response I need to go forward with my next scene. Today I went with my daughter to our first college tour. Not exactly a lesson in letting go, right? That's what I thought.
The tour was great--beautiful campus, exciting prospect. The future was wide open, bright and smiling on us. When the tour was over, she went to eat lunch with a friend instead of riding home with me. Here's the serendipity part.
I'm sitting at the traffic light to go straight and her and her friend pass me and make a left at the light. Before they make the turn, her arm emerges from the passenger window and she waves. A small gesture. A familiar arm, a hand I have bathed, and held and watched grow into a younger version of my own. But it wasn't just a "see you later" wave. It was a moment in slow motion, a glimpse at the reality of letting go. It was a message as clear as if she had whispered it in my ear.
"Yes, Mom, I am a separate person. I am my own being, with my own destiny which will be different from yours, but in my grace I am acknowledging you and the fact that I am leaving you behind."
So, in that one surreal, stripped down moment, I have been given my emotional response. I have experienced the pain and beauty which exists in the moment of a child's goodbye.
I have found the broken heart and hope from which my main character will now experience the next part of her journey.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
You're The Giver!
by Lois Lowry
While you grew up with a sheltered childhood, you're pretty sure
everyone around you is even more sheltered. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, you were
tapped on the shoulder and transported to the real world. This made you horrified by
your prior upbringing and now you're tormented by how to reconcile these two lives.
Ultimately, the struggle comes down to that old free will issue. Choose
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
What book are you?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
David Duchovny! A story about a writer! In California???? It's being touted as a male "Sex in the City". Just plain mean and unfair. MEAN, Showtime. I have just barely gotten over my X-Files addiction and I mean, Dexter is bad enough. A serial killer working in forensics...brilliant. The books are great, full of humor and death. I resisted your 89 godzillion dollar a month plan, though. BUT now...David a writer! You've gone too far and...
I think I'll be knocking on my neigbors door on Monday night...say around 10:30???
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Let me just say that when you bring children into this world, something has to give. You have to give up part of yourself or something in your life. I know we would all like to think we can have it all and do it all but--if we're honest with ourselves--there is just not enough time. Unless, of course, you can afford a nanny, and you don't care if your kids call her mommy.
Giving up writing, for me was completely off the table, non-negotiable and necessary for my mental health. That's how I find the time. I just do it. It's a priority. Actually it's a sickness. Trying to find time to balance the rest of my life between these two priorities--kids and writing--is the real problem, but life is all about balance. About not getting out of balance. There are other important things: friends, other family members, your physical health, food, down time...sleep. All of these things must be squeezed into a measly 24 hours, only to begin again the next day. This repetition of needs is both necessary and corroding. My coping mechanism: a schedule. If I have to squeeze something else in and things get jostled around a bit, that's fine. I do this so I don't have to think, because I have a tendency to think too much. If I start thinking about how I'm going to get two toddlers to the gym with all their labeled sippy cups, snacks, diapers, extra clothes, etc or if I start thinking about how I'm going to finish this monster of a novel I have bitten off...I start to panic. I freeze.
I was thinking (see what I mean?) about this while dying on the back half of my first real workout this morning. Why do I do this to myself? Is it worth it? I don't know, really but I know it's necessary. It's for balance. It's for the completed circle: Mental, Emotional and Physical health.
So, what did I give up?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What my subconscious is apparently working on behind my back: poetry
Last night I got up in the middle of the night and wrote this one down:
Sex and Evolution
Dawn flicked out his tongue
And licked night away.
Stars crackled and died--
Once again in his glory--
Leaving nothing alive but today.
His light melted galaxies
And rose to be our god,
Nothing exists beyond light or love
Except perhaps another day.
I really have no idea what I was thinking...or my mind was thinking without me. Ahhh, the mystery of where words come from...and why they wake us up like a freakin' four alarm fire drill at three in the morning.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
"Hi Shannon, thanks for the story. I have to be honest, nothing about it felt real to me... that a professional psychiatrist would be unnerved by a patient asking if they ever think about dying didnt sound authentic to me. And why would the psychiatrist have a gun in her desk? Are they in prison? Does this patient have a violent history? How did this patient have access to the desk to find the gun? Also I wasn't clear on the ending.. you say the psychiatrist unlocks the drawer to get the gun... and you say the "I" character lets her "feel the metal" and then leaps up. I wasn't sure if you meant the psychiatrist reached in and felt the metal of her gun... or if you meant the "I" character grabbed the gun and held it to the psychiatrist's head... if I were you I would go over this story again and resolve some of these issues... pondering what is human is a very interesting concept, but I don't think this story did it justice."
Again, I'm very very grateful that he even took the time to send a personal note. This does make me feel like I'm at least in the game.
Okay, now I'll share the quick fiction story since I'll have to rework it to the point of being a different story anyway:
The psychiatrist’s office is chilly today. I caress the cool skin of my cheek, this mask that shields what is underneath. Pressing harder, I feel the bone, the skull, the eye sockets, the teeth. I think this is all that will be left of me one day. A skull like those in the science books and museums which have been excavated and displayed for the purpose of teaching, of learning. Of learning that time marches on. That we exist in a blink of an eye. That one day, we will be stripped of our masks and bleached white by the sun. I imagine when this happens, my soul will be freed and wonder where it will float off to. I know there is such a thing as a soul. I know because I can feel mine trying to scratch and claw its way free from the confines of my body, its prison. I know it is a thing separate from my mind, because my mind is its tormenter. I wonder if this is what it is to be crazy? I know this is what it is to be human.
A harsh noise pulls me from my thoughts. She has cleared her throat loudly. This is her signal that I should open up to her, that I should tell her what I’m thinking. I make eye contact. This is what I’m supposed to do and she rewards me with her most encouraging smile.
“Do you ever think about dying?” I say.
I see her trying to hold her encouraging smile, but I’ve said something wrong. I feel myself shrinking, sucked inward by the vortex of disappointment.
“Do you think you could hurt yourself?” she asks, her voice even and professional; her eyes a separate betrayal. “Or someone else?” Too casual. She is afraid of me.
I want to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my curiosity and my tiny silver lock pick have already discovered her revolver in the third desk drawer on her right. The one she is now casually unlocking. I look away and pretend not to notice the shadow of her foot begin to wiggle nervously beneath the desk.
Intuition. That’s what humans have.
“Yes,” I sigh.
I give her time to feel the cold metal but not enough time to think it through. I have had too much time to think it through myself. I jump up. I see the flash of light but I feel nothing. Maybe I am not human after all.
I lunge into the unknown.
So that's it. The funny thing is I was picturing the patient in a prison setting with a dangerous background. So, the editor got it--even if he didn't know he got it.
I'm beginning to wonder if I just don't spell things out enough? I want to give the reader credit, give them pieces and feel confident that they can put together the puzzle. I want to give them a bit of mystery, of challenge. I guess this isn't the best way to go about a short story.
Learning as I go.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Things I learned from this trip:
1) I have been away from the beach way too long. I have lost the connection. It was like looking into the face of a long ago friend and seeing a stranger. The grace of a pelican in flight was shocking. When did I forget this?
2) I have forgotten how to do nothing. When the boys went down for a nap and we had two hours to kill, I didn't know what to do with myself. I watched the ocean, trying to feel the familiar pull, trying to sink into the calmness, the tranquility I used to feel. After five minutes of this I left the balcony and rummaged around the condo. Surely there was something that needed cleaned, folded, tucked or scrubbed? I found a stash of books by the TV. Something to read! Perfect. I took a few outside and flipped through them. Shallow beach reads. None of them held my interest. I was beginning to panic. Instead of relaxed, I was anxious...even bored.
3) As busy as nature looks, there is a rhythm, a pattern of work and rest, of energy exerted and then released. The pelicans: flap flap flap...glide. flap flap flap...glide. The ocean: waves of energy created and dispersed. I have lost my rhythm. I am all flap flap flap...create create create.
Eventually, in the last few hours, I began to experience moments of familiarity, of lightness. Moments of recognition, of remembering. Moments I was connecting with myself and in turn, connecting with the world around me. I was encouraged that more time could have healed the distance.
Maybe next time.
Now, I will be working on trying to find my own natural rhythm.
I will try to remember how to glide.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I refuse to call this a vacation. Mainly because we have packed enough to call it a move and we are about to try our first four hour car ride with two eighteen month olds to a new place that has no gates, no drawer locks, no baby-proofed potties, plants or people and water without boundaries, bottoms or fences.
But, I'm okay. This will be my view for the next four days.
It will be...an adventure.
So, you all have a great weekend and no, this doesn't let you off the hook for participating in the top ten list! I expect to see some exposure...ahem, some...dis-closure when I get back!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
My lovely friend, Joyce, has tagged me with this meme. You describe 10 "weird or different experiences in your blog," and then must tag 10 of your friends to do the same. Here are mine:
2) I have experienced that invisible web that connects us all. When I was seventeen I had a terrible dream that my mother's cousin, who lived in a different state (we'll call him John) had kidnapped me and assaulted me in an abandoned coal mine. It was so vivid that I wouldn't even go back to my room. The funny part about this was, I had never even met "John." I just knew instinctively it was him. A few weeks later, my grandmother sent us news that John had been arrested for this crime. It even took place in an abandoned coal mine.
3) I have experienced the full fury of nature. Its name was Hurricane Andrew. I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, and when the winds were gusting at 175 miles per hour, I thought I would also die there. Some beauty did come out if it as the aviary at the Miami Zoo was destroyed and we had gorgeous tropical birds landing in our yard for weeks afterward.
4) Growing up in Florida, I have stepped on both a pygmy rattlesnake and a sand shark.
5) Three years ago, I took a belly dancing class and was hooked. It is now my favorite form of exercise.
6) Six years ago I became a vegetarian because of a disturbing dream I had in which I bit a lamb. Yes, bit. Hard. Drew blood. I know, it's a weird thing to change your lifestyle because of a dream but it was irrevocably etched into my psyche. I can still hear the poor thing scream.
7) A bit of irony. I have lived and driven in four different states but have received my only speeding ticket in the state that I was born in (Pa.) while driving through cross country.
8) From my senior year Algebra class window, I watched the space shuttle Challenger launch and then explode. It was a shocking event. Not only for the live's lost but for the loss of innocence and the lesson in life's unfairness and mortality, even when things are planned so carefully. You are never in control, never safe.
9) When I was twenty five I got to visit Denmark. It was seriously one of the highlights of my life. The people were incredibly warm, real and fascinating. I loved it so much I wanted a reminder of my trip that was more than a souvenir I would plop on a shelf. So, before getting on the plane to come back home I found a small tattoo parlor in Copenhagen and had my belly button pierced, (the commitment of a tattoo is too much for me) not thinking about the many hours sitting upright on a plane I would have to endure with a throbbing belly. My souvenir is now a tiny scar.
10) In an eleventh grade creative writing class, we had to write a true story about something that affected our lives greatly and the teacher sent them in to a contest for a magazine that would be distributed to all the Florida high schools. I wrote a story about one of my parent's friends, an older gentleman that used to bring me butterscotch candy, and how his passing affected me. Although it was supposed to be a true story, I made this one up and so was shocked when my story was picked. Even more so when an office worker brought me a box a few weeks later filled with letters from high school students saying how touched they were by my story and how it helped them understand a loss of their own. That's when I experienced the power of fiction writing and fell in love.
On that note, I swear I didn't make any of these up. :-)
I know it's summer and you all are busy, so I'm not going to force you to participate. BUT, it's fun...so if you read this just DO IT. GET NAKED.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Is it far fetched? Perhaps. Is it possible? Entirely.
It's possible because of a little thing scientists like to call a chimera. A chimera is created by mixing cells from two different species. In a simplified version of the scenario above, you could inject human stem cells into some mice embryos and let the resulting mice be born. You are bound to get some mice born eventually that have human reproductive cells. Just mate a mouse with human sperm and a mouse with human eggs and you have a 100% human baby. Of course, the embryo would have to be implanted in a human womb, but that is a routine procedure now. Which brings me to a fascinating debate going on in England.
The British Parliament is considering allowing scientists to create chimeric embryos as long as they are destroyed after two weeks. They say it will be against the law to implant these embryos. The problem is The Catholic bishops have come out and said if these chimeric embryos are created, they have a right to life. They don't think they should be made at all, but if scientists do go ahead with it, then they should be allowed to live. Specifically, this is what the Bishop's say:
"It should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them. ... Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”
Can you imagine?!!
Because this is the topic of my current book, I have asked a lot of people their thoughts on a non-human animal/human hybrid creation. I can tell you that the reaction is almost always something akin to "ick" or "are you crazy?" or "god help us if that ever happens" or "step away from the tequila." Actually, by the reactions I can honestly say I think these creatures are better off not ever being born. They would be outcasts, slaves, burned on stakes in horrible rituals, tortured, ridiculed and at the very least have no rights.
Here in the U.S. we tried to pass the Human Chimera Prohibition Act back in 2005. It never became a law. What we have instead is a National Academy of Science ethics board that scientists are urged to run experiments by before they attempt anything like this. There is also only regulations put on government funded labs. Private labs can do whatever they want.
So, now I'm asking you. If scientists are allowed to create human-non-human embryos...do you think they have a right to be born? What if the creation had more than sixty percent human DNA and only forty percent mouse? Would that make a difference?
Monday, July 16, 2007
As I've said before, although I love poetry, it's not my strong point. Maybe it's because I only write poetry when I need to release some sort of emotion--usually pain, frustration, etc. All the dark stuff. It usually does the trick for me, as I feel better after writing it. As far as sharing it, it doesn't usually make sense to anyone else.
I found this one which I think is pretty cut and dry:
A Blink of a Breakdown
I want to tumble, spat from bare air
as fear sulks, left behind by Newton’s law.
I want to ride a dirty train in some foreign country,
drowning in novel accents
where I can stand naked in ignorance,
watching strangers blow out heavy tar-smoke
like burnt souls filling the cab, laughing
at something, as if life were actually amusing.
I want to stare
at a building so breathtaking
that I actually forget
I want to fill my lungs with ocean salt.
I want to be reborn so many countries later,
I ring the front desk to ask
what day it is.
I want to taste the speed of light.
I want to stick my tongue
In the lemon meringue sun,
Lick the gathering foam
From death’s noble steed-
Gallop faster, won’t you?
I want to scream.
I want to plop on the fire branded sands
And wink back at the seas of possibility.
I want to give someone a thing of
value and turn away before
they smile politely,
having no fucking clue
what lay dead in their hand.
I want to hear glass shatter.
I want to be transported to magical lands
by strange mushroom drinks
concocted by uncivilized hands.
I want to stare, unblinking star by star
And know down time’s line
a spent story of light will exist
In memory of me.
I want to flee down a haunted hall.
I want to not be haunted.
I want to shatter every mountain
and feed their ground bones to the sea.
Heaven is flat, open, infinite.
I want to breath.
I want to live in the darkness
because the light shows the ugliness of humanity.
I want the darkness to not live in me.
So, those of you out there that write poetry, what moves you to start a poem? Is it emotional or more physical, like an event? I would love to read some of yours so feel free to post them!
Have a great week.
Monday, July 09, 2007
1) You can be successful without having to deal with the pesky fame part of it. Worried about being too brilliant and getting mobbed at the Jiffy Lube? No worries...unless you are J.K. Rowling, of course.
2) The average professional baseball player's career only lasts 6.5 years. As a writer, you don't have to be concerned about physical injury derailing your career. You can work your knotty little arthritic fingers to the bone well into your nineties. (Bar the deformities such as your ass becoming the size and shape of your computer chair)
3) Afraid that you won't hear enough stories about your nutter friends and relatives? No need to worry. As soon as you tell them you're writing a book, you will have stories coming out of your ears.
4) What other job is there that you can work in your underwear and fuzzy bunny slippers?
5) Hearing voices and arguing amongst yourselves are considered valuable tools of the trade.
6) The fan mail is nice, yes...but more importantly are the helpful souls out there that selflessly scour your books for inaccuracies or other things that may accidentally conjure up the devil, and expend a great deal of effort coming up with career matches that would better suit you such as a vacuum cleaner sales representative...or perhaps, just the vacuum cleaner.
7) Writers don't have to worry about becoming complacent and taking things for granted such as new cars, diamond studded socks or a private island getaway. (Again, unless you're J.K. Rowling)
8) Rejection. It's addicting. Better than crack. Don't believe me...here, try it--
Although I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog, I'm afraid your blue moon rising just doesn't coincide with my sparkly fairy tattoo. Good luck placing your foot elsewhere.
Having flash backs yet?
9) You get to make your own schedule, which forces you to be highly organized, disciplined and free from any and all procrastination tendencies. In other words...perfect.
10) After creating a three hundred plus page story-- filled with places and people that don't really exist, powered by events that never really happened--coming up with a story about the gallon of missing mint chocolate chip ice cream that was just bought two days ago is a piece of cake!
I dip the wand into the thick, soapy liquid. When I pull it out, it runs down my arm. This is meant to simply be entertainment. The first time, I get the wand too close to my mouth as I blow, spitting to the delight of my toddler, who practices this spitting thing after me. Squeals ensue as bubbles explode from the wand, released by the wind instead of me. Some form of disappointment expands within me at this fact. I watch as he toddles after them, arms raised, fingers splayed. He falls, gets back up, toddles more, giggles more. This time, I shield the wind and blow the bubbles myself. When he chases these, it is a sweeter flavor of joy.
Now, he has squatted down. He has spotted a bubble sticking in the grass, quivering in the wind. I watch silently as--with a deliberation that could make the whole world disappear and a smile that is the whole world--he pokes his prize at last, touching it with a tiny pointer finger. Fragile meets fragile. The disappointment is instant, appearing exactly at the same time the bubble pops. With eyes watering from the sun, the wind and the sheer unfairness of a goal reached, he looks up at me with questions I don’t know how to answer, uncertainties I don’t know how to protect him from. So, I simply watch him with my own eyes watering from the wind and the bitter sweetness of life.
I smile and I say, “Precisely, my son.”
Thursday, July 05, 2007
B.E. Sanderson Beth is one of the kindred spirits I have met through this blogging journey. She's a fellow speculative fiction writer who I read because she's beside me in the trenches and I don't feel so alone in my journey when I visit her. She definitely rocks!
Bee Lavender Bee's blog is where I go when I want to live vicariously through someone. Besides having a great name, she is an amazingly unique person, who has been through so many illnesses, cancer, surgeries, near death moments in her life but still, instead of being bitter or afraid, she is actually living life to the fullest. She is savoring life in Cambridge, which is fitting for her, she is as charming as I have always imagined England to be.
Rebecca Taylor Rebecca is a lady who works in the molecular biology field and started her blog "Mary Meets Dolly" to try to clear up some of the misconceptions the general public has about issues such as genetic engineering and reproductive technology. Although I don't share the Catholic viewpoint she is writing from, I admire her immensely for the fact that she saw a need for public education about things such as cloning and stem cell research and she is doing something about it. Her posts are always well-researched and I have learned a great deal from her.
Alexandra Sokoloff What can I say about Alex? She's a gorgeous thriller writer with spunk who's posts keep me in the loop of what's going on in the world of writerdom. 'Nough said.
And last, but certainly not least, I would like to nominate someone for the counterpart to this award. THE AWESOME GUY BLOGGER.I cannot leave out Christian, the person who has graciously become the supporting beam to my blogging life. He is also a writer, but his blog is like stepping into wonderland--you never know what is there waiting for you. It could be bits of writing, reviews, rants. Whatever it is, it's always honest and he doesn't hold back. I wish I could be as free!
So, Christian, thanks for both the entertainment and support! You rock. Of course, I can't get your bling to post here so check your email!Can you feel the love, people???? I know I sure can!
Thanks again, Shawn!
Monday, July 02, 2007
Of course, there has to be some balance here. After all, looking back down the road is good for a few things. It's a useful way to avoid the same mistakes, to appreciate how far you've come and to realize how quickly the present becomes the past. Unfortunately, most of us use it as evidence against ourselves to keep living in a world of self-imposed guilt and penance.
Looking forward also has its usefulness. Humans have evolved to possess an imagination, a tool in our survival belt. The proper way to use this tool is to avoid and prepare for possible disasters in our future. This is how we survive, how our species exists, but unfortunately it is not how we find happiness.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Zen. Zen to me means living in awareness of the moment. Being both the participant and observer in one’s own life. Being both the artist and the one standing in front of the canvas, smiling in appreciation.
Over at Shawn's place, she has an interview up with Karen Maezen Miller, author of "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood". Karen is a Zen Buddhist priest, a wife, mother and writer. She is also giving away five copies of her book! How Zen is that??? So, in order to enter, you have to post at Shawn's place and finish the statement, "For me, Zen is....."
So, here goes:
For me, Zen is…
The moments I can block out fear. Fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of failure. Zen is the moment one of my children meet my eyes and I feel a rush of love. Zen is the moment of a new discovery, a moment I recognize a connection with a new friend, a moment I feel myself breathing and am grateful. Recently, I have consciously logged a few moments while I was experiencing them and so these I would call Zen. A moment standing on the porch while black clouds rolled in and heavy winds made me catch my breath. A moment when my twins were crying after a biting match and I let myself cry with them, completely overwhelmed. For that moment I let go of all fantasies and preconceptions that I could control anything. It was a surprising moment of peace, a seed that had burst forth from the heat. A moment of physical pleasure with the first mouthful of a newly discovered wine, a freshly scrubbed kitchen floor, and a moment of relief when my kids actually ate the new recipe I tried, instead of throwing for distance.
I suppose for me, Zen is just being able to exist in the moment and let it be what it is. A moment without reigns. A moment embraced and then released to make room for the next moment. Whatever it brings, heartache or joy, saturating myself in it because it is life. Life is not one perfect moment after another…or is it?
What is your Zen?
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I am not a particularly politically inclined individual. I don't get politics, but I'm trying because things are really starting to frighten me. For instance--what the freak is up with China???? Are they secretly trying to poison all our pets, our kids and all of us who brush our teeth? Or are all these recalls some secret political game our government is playing? Maybe we should start opening our factories back up, making our own products right here where we control the regulations, putting money in our own worker's pockets. Oh...
See what I mean about having a hard time keeping my thoughts from sprouting feet and running off in a different direction. Ahhh, summer. ANYWAY...I'm currently reading John McNally's "America's Report Card." It's basically about how ridiculous standardized government testing is and some about conspiracy theories. A real eye opener. But more than that, it's hilarious! Here's a quote:
"She even sat through interviews conducted by Larry King, a man who reminded her of a corpse that had been exhumed from a long-forgotten cemetery and then brought back to life with a billion watts of electricity."
Besides being funny, that is so true! Or maybe that's why it's funny.
Anyway, great book so far.
I'm also a beta reader for fellow speculative fiction writer & Ayn Rand fan, B.E. I'm enjoying her novel, Blink of an I, very much. But, I can't tell her that yet, because I feel like I should have some critique to go with it. So Beth, if you read this...just ignore that part.
Besides the novel, I'm trying to work on some "100 words or less" short stories to submit to Tuesday Shorts. Do you know how hard it is to whittle a story down to 100 words?! Crazy hard. Well, for me anyway. The closest I've gotten is 259 words. It's fun to try.
Go on, try it!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
They say our brains can't tell the difference between something that has happened to us and something that we only imagine has happened to us. There have been all kinds of experiments about this. The one that comes to mind right now is the one where they took two groups of kids and allowed the first group to practice basketball for hours & told the second group to spend the same amount of time imagining they were practicing basketball. At the end of the experiment, the two groups had improved equally.
Our bodies apparently react to an imagined stressful event in the same way as an experienced stressful event.
I started noticing recently that when I have my toddler twins out in public and I loose sight of one of them (mind you, I only take them to gated in areas when I 'm alone with them, so it's not like they can run off) I have been reacting a lot stronger than I have in the past. By this I mean, I pretty much am over-reacting. I get the whole heart racing, light headed fight or flight thing. When it happened today, I tried to pinpoint the fear and what I came up with was that I was reliving a memory. A memory of losing my child, of wondering where he was at that moment, knowing he was terrified to be without me. Only, I have never lost my child.
The "memory" stems from the story of the four year old little girl who had been kidnapped from her parent's hotel room while they were vacationing not too long ago. I am so empathetic by nature that every time I read something about this story, I couldn't help but put myself in the parents shoes, imagining each detail in technicolor, feeling the horror...the terror and the heartbreak as if it were my child. Of course, I will never know the fullness of their pain but for me, this story has become my own terrible memory.
So, the question of the day is...can we, as fiction writers, affect people like this with our stories? Or is it only "the truth" that can do this. If our brains can't tell the difference between what we are experiencing through our imagination and what we are experiencing in the real world, then it should be possible.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Oprah has the Cormac McCarthy interview video on her website. You have to join the bookclub to see it, but that only takes a second and besides, you could be a lot worse things in life than a member of Oprah's bookclub. Watch it. It's a real treat!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
This is my answer to the statement that life is unfair. I didn’t come to this conclusion from experiencing things too harsh to give light to-- divorce, bankruptcy, a two-year war with clinical depression-- all before my thirtieth birthday. Though those things did happen, life is kind enough to numb you during the really big matters. (Have you noticed that when people get their limbs torn off or something equally awful, they always say, ‘I didn’t feel a thing’?) This is the way it is with the big things, you are suddenly suspended, freed from natural laws by some unnatural kind of mercy. Life is what happens in between. A series of brightly lit moments, tiny glimpses of truth strung together like Christmas lights.
My earliest recollection of one of these jolts of truth was before I was eleven. (I only know this because it came before one of the biggest shocks of my life, which left me with a background noise of fear. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
Living in a small Pennsylvanian town, lightning bug season was our answer to fireworks. Fireflies. Our faces pressed against the window, our eyes straining to see through the dusk and dirty screen for the first blink of green. Their mating call, our signal to begin the hunt. Mason jars gripped tightly in both hands, we would rush out, squealing, laughing, charging the tiny lights and then try to follow them through the growing darkness until their biological processes betrayed them once again. Once we got bored of gathering them into a living lantern, we would start to make glowing jewelry from their gooey, torn off abdomens. The last season, maybe metaphorically the last season of my innocence, came in the moment I realized the other half of the bug was dead, and I had killed it. It felt foreign, this thought, foreign and then hot and startling like a sudden summer storm. Shock. It was to be the end of lighting bug jewelry for anyone near me.
Living in the woods, there were other moments of death-shock. The baby moles I had tried to save from the cat by putting them up out of reach on top of my sliding board- my aluminum sliding board…on a sweltering summer day. Shock. That same cat’s kittens being mauled by a neighbor’s dog. Shock. But nothing could have prepared me for the realization of my own mortality.
I always ask people now if they remember the exact moment they realized one day they would die. They always say no. Is this normal? My exact moment came as an eleven year old, lying in the grass, staring up at the sky. Something uncomfortable began to grow within me as my fingers absentmindedly stroked the grass, thoughts were reflecting the motion of the clouds, drifting unchecked, uninhibited. Discomfort exploded into a moment of blind truth, a searing white moment of conclusion. The sky was ripped open as the veil of childhood fell from my eyes. One day I would no longer feel the softness of grass between my fingers. One day would be my last. One day, I would no longer exist. This one sent shock waves into my future.
There are two choices a person has when faced with such a truth. One- don’t allow yourself to reach that deeply into thought ever again, or two- begin stacking layers of beliefs, superstitions, religions between you and the truth, a mental padding that you can fall back on, a shock absorber.
Alternating these two things seemed to get me from one day to the next, until the subject of death once again touched my life. I lost my best friend of fourteen years. There were a few hot-truth moments strung out through that experience. Beginning with the fact that death steamrolls right over love, care and devotion; then it rips away the padding you so carefully built up over the years so the things you thought you believed in become a rapidly disappearing mist of illusions. You are naked once again. Shocked.
Months later, bursting from the ashes of mauled-over grief came another jolt of truth. Love had survived. (Me-shocked: what?) Yes, after all, it makes sense. Something as powerful, infinite and incomprehensible as love could not have just burst into being 18 billion years ago along side our infant universe. Love is the key to immortality. So, this is the one illuminated moment I keep on top of the rest, as the tiny points of truth wind their way through my life toward the brightest truth of all.
Love cheats death.
Friday, June 08, 2007
A friend sent me this description of an empath, which fits me to a tee. It made me wonder, are all writers/artists like this? Here's the description (see if it fits you):
Empaths are highly sensitive. This is the term commonly used in describing one's abilities (sensitivity) to another's emotions and feelings. Empaths have a deep sense of knowing that accompanies empathy and are often compassionate, considerate, and understanding of others.
Empaths are often poets in motion. They are the born writers, singers, and artists with a high degree of creativity and imagination. They are known for many talents as their interests are varied, broad and continual, loving, loyal and humorous.
Empaths are often very affectionate in personality and expression, great listeners and counselors (and not just in the professional area). They will find themselves helping others and often putting their own needs aside to do so. In the same breath, they can be much the opposite. They may be quiet, withdrawn from the outside world, loners, depressed, neurotic, lifes daydreamers, or even narcissistic.They are most often passionate towards nature and respect its bountiful beauty. One will often find empaths enjoying the outdoors, beaches, walking, etc. Empaths may find themselves continually drawn to nature as a form of release. It is the opportune place to recapture their senses and gain a sense of peace in the hectic lives they may live.
Empaths are sensitive to TV, videos, movies, news and broadcasts. Violence or emotional dramas depicting shocking scenes of physical or emotional pain inflicted on adults, children or animals can bring an empath easily to tears. At times, they may feel physically ill or choke back the tears. Some empaths will struggle to comprehend any such cruelty, and will have grave difficulty in expressing themselves in the face of another's ignorance, closed-mindedness and obvious lack of compassion. They simply cannot justify the suffering they feel and see.
Here are the listeners of life. Empaths are often problem solvers, thinkers, and studiers of many things. As far as empaths are concerned, where a problem is, so too is the answer. They often will search until they find one--if only for peace of mind.
This is probably why I lean towards delving deep into my characters feelings and motivations. Some of the thriller writers that I have come to know, I couldn't really imagine fitting this description. So, I'm thinking to find your own niche as a writer--the one that would be truest to your own nature, make you happiest and have the greatest chance at success--you really need to know yourself!
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Ahhh, it's a gorgeous Wednesday here. The sun is shining...I can hear the soft cry of morning gulls just above the lapping waves. I can taste the salt in the air. No...wait...oops, that's all in my head, too. Where am I? Sigh. Back to reality.
So, I received another lovely rejection (see how easy it is to put a positive spin on rejection. Just add adjective and wala!) for a completely different short story. This one is from the Kenyon Review. Here it is: [Personal note: the execution is elegant & sophisticated, but both the set-up and the resolution seem quite tired to us. Sorry we can't keep this one. Best, KG]
I'm getting really good at learning from these things, I think. From this one I interpret that my strength is the actual prose and my weakness is coming up with an original story. Which, by the way, I already know. I blame the whole coloring in the lines thing as a child. Not sure how to fix this. I really think it's just life experience. I'll have to get some more of that.
Meanwhile, I have my first author interview posted here. Warning, I was feeling silly that day...I'm sensing a trend.
I was invited by the lovely (my word of the day) Heidi Ruby Miller. If you're a writer and would like to participate in her Pick Six, then just contact her. She doesn't bite.
Monday, May 28, 2007
It still needs some tweaking (I just noticed a typo on the front page...ug) This really illustrates how important editors are, and a fresh set of eyes...and that third cup of coffee. But anyway, it's there. Feel free to comment, just be gentle...until I make money at this, it's the free website templates for me.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I'm also in the middle of M. Atwood's CAT'S EYE and she, too, is brilliant with creating characters with cracks, weaknesses and painful histories. I get it. I just can't seem to translate it to paper.
Then there's the question, when I'm completely honest with myself...do I really want to? When I look back at my main characters, they are people who I would look up to in real life, people who I would want as friends. People with backbones. I think Ayn Rand really influenced me more than I realized in this area of writing. Her characters were the kind of people I would want in my life, though I know people personally that hate her books for this reason--because her characters aren't realistic.
I do feel like I'm creating characters that I want to spend time with; people that I want to stay with for 300 plus pages, BUT I also know the reader has to identify with the characters and that means flaws, that means being human. And, of course, people can have backbones and ideals and still have flaws. I think that's the middle ground I need to find my big feet standing on.
I'll have to work on this.
Anyway, I'm officially at the halfway point with STRANGE NEW FEET. It's all downhill from here. Well, not really...but from here, it will be closer to the end than the beginning.
I'll leave you with a quote from THE FOUNTAINHEAD:
"Show me your achievement, and the knowledge will give me courage for mine."